Abortion trauma: showing and telling

A joint venture by the School of Law at Oxford University and the Open University called 'Abortion stories: showing and telling' seeks to make abortion banal. Peter Sullivan seeks to explain why it won't work.

Oxford University School of Law and the Open University are teaming up to try and normalise and make mundane the taking of a baby’s life. This blog sets out to explain why they are set to fail.

Something which I often say in my presentations about abortion is that it is unlikely that any woman genuinely wants to have an abortion. The reason: it goes against every instinct in a pregnant woman’s mind and body to consciously have a doctor take the life of her unborn child. This is the reason why so many women suffer psychologically following an abortion. This is also the reason, then, that abortion activists running the Oxford and Open University joint project will inevitably have to twist reality and obscure the truth when presenting their planned ‘travelling multimedia installation’.

Shout Your Abortion

The project is reminiscent of the ‘Shout Your Abortion’ campaign in late September which encouraged women to be loud and proud about their abortions. Some of the contributors to this campaign are quoted as saying:

“I had an abortion in May because I am 21 and want to enjoy my youth.”

“I’ve never wanted to have children, so I had an abortion. I’m thriving, without guilt, without shame, without apologies.”

“I’ve had 2 abortions. I don’t have to justify or explain them to anybody. My life is more valuable than a potential life.”

The truth is though that any attempt to write abortion off as ‘just another medical procedure’, the equivalent of a tooth extraction, always comes across as insincere. The last quote is halfway to the truth: each person knows deep down that an abortion isn’t the extraction of an organ or the removal of a piece of tissue. It is the extraction, it is the removal of a living, breathing human being. This isn’t conjecture or an opinion, but the scientific fact of the matter of abortion. Anne Furedi, CEO of abortion chain BPAS makes no bones about this:

Abortion may be an act of killing – but it kills a being that has no sense of life or death, and no awareness of itself as distinct from others,”

Anne Furedi is correct in her first statement, but the latter statement is most definitely her own conjecture and opinion. She is not basing this on any empirical evidence whatsoever. The fact that unborn babies recoil and flinch from a surgical instruments at least as early as 20 weeks (anesthesia is applied to wanted babies in all in-utero surgery) is one of many factors which suggests that these human beings have a sense of what is going on around them.[1]

There are many animal rights activists who would balk if it were suggested that any animal’s life could be taken in traumatic circumstances because a certain popular opinion happened to be that animals don’t have a sense of life and death. But this is exactly what is happening with abortion in the UK.

Neither show nor tell the truth

The great irony of the ‘Abortion Stories: Showing and Telling’ project is that it will neither show abortion nor tell the truth about abortion.

If the activists involved were to show an actual abortion taking place as part of their ‘multimedia installation’ they would watch their project crash and burn. The esteemed guests at the Oxford University event would see the grim reality of what the extraction of a human child looks like, and not the extraction of an organ, and the video would leave the room in gross discomfort.

If the activists involved were actually to tell the truth about abortion, through ordinary women who have had the procedure, something, similar would happen. The guests would start feeling extremely uncomfortable as real woman after real woman stood up during the installation and sincerely spoke of their sense of loss, despair, and regret following the decision to terminate.


The below comment, which appears in its entirety, was left on a thread on the discussion forum NetMums and is similar to the literally countless comments about regretting abortion left beneath it and countless accounts elsewhere:

“ I wrote on here a few weeks ago about finding out I was pregnant with my third child. To cut a long story short, I had a termination just over a week ago. Basically, I am a mess. I have regretted what I have done ever since. I cry every day and just dont know how I am supposed to go back to living a normal life after what I have done. At the time I was worried about how I would cope with another child but now that my baby is gone, it all just feels so ridiculous, the things that I worried about shouldnt have mattered. I should have looked after my baby. Kept it safe.

What have I done? I feel that I need to be punished for this. That I have no right to be happy. I can not bear to be around other people and just feel safe at home. The smallest of things make me cry but at the same time, I do not feel worthy of any sympathy. All I want is my baby back and knowing that I can never have this is just unbearable.

All I keep saying is why didn’t anyone tell me not to do it? I feel that I rushed my decision as I didn’t want my baby to grow any bigger whilst I was trying to decide what to do. I was already 7 weeks when I had the termination and for me, that was too far gone. I keep torturing myself, looking at the stages in the baby books. My baby would have had a tiny beating heart.

What the hell have I done? I am evil. My husband says the he wished he had told me not to do it now that he can see how much pain I am in. He has been very patient with me and we have cried our hearts out together, but i am beginning to think that he feels I should be getting better by now. He wants me to see the doctor but it wont help. I am due to return to work tomorrow but I have a public facing job and quite frankly, the thought of it terrifies me and I am in tears now.

My body still feels pregnant. My breasts are still larger then normal and I just feel that my baby should still be here with me. I still have my pregnancy test. I cant throw it away because stupidly it feels like the only bit of my baby I have left. I really thought that I was making the right decision for everyone at the time so why now, afterwards does it all feel so wrong? Life is so cruel. If I had known how much I would long for my baby as soon as it was gone, I would never ever have had an abortion.I dont know how to go on from here. I feel numb and worthless. I just want my baby back.”

Women deserve better than abortion. They deserve every possible avenue of support which society can offer them when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. And at the moment society is utterly failing them by offering, and pressuring them, into the ‘choice’ of abortion: to have a doctor take the life of their own child. A propaganda campaign to make this choice mundane and palatable is the last thing women need.



[1] Van Scheltema PNA, Bakker S, Vandenbussche FPHA, Oepkes, D. Fetal Pain. Fetal and Maternal Medicine Review. 19:4  (2008). p 319, para 2: “Besides the argument of achieving adequate fetal anaesthesia, there are other purposes that justify the administration of drugs: the inhibiting fetal movement during a procedure”.

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3 people are talking about Abortion trauma: showing and telling

  1. Joanna Spencer says:

    I had an abortion when I was just 22 and I subsequently suffered PTSD and anxiety, and made rash life choices, as a direct result of the 'sensible' choice of an abortion. I have many thoughts on the issue and how its presentation is nothing short of illegal, as far as I can see - specious at the least, and ultimately terribly unfair on parents and unborn children. I really would like to share my experience and my conclusions, and I wonder what's the best way to do this? Should I email you, or contribute to the blog? I'm an Oxford graduate and am more than happy to go up against my counterparts in discussion. I can't see how anyone could reasonably argue that abortion is not the taking of life, and that it women (especially when pregnant for the first time) are in a position to make the decision. The decision should have been taken before having intercourse such that a pregnancy could have resulted from it. In Poland they have huge roadside posters with graphic photos of aborted babies, to show the reality of abortion and, of course, to try to guide the general public about this. I was shocked by the posters, but the three young girls in the car (two Polish, one my Polish-English 9 year old) all said 'Look - isn't that awful! It's wrong to have an abortion' - which gave me the chance to say 'yes, so make sure you don't get into a difficult situation in the first place'. It was supportive on the part of the State. I would love to live in a country where the State thinks abortion is a dreadful thing, and quite unthinkable. I would feel safer and more respected as a woman and mother. : (

    1. Peter Sullivan says:

      Hi Ms Spencer,

      Thanks very much for your comment- it takes some amount of courage and integrity to write so honestly.

      Your email address has come up on the admin version of the page so I'll send you an email just now.

      Thanks again,


  2. Gemma says:

    Not all women want to be mothers or have a desire to gestate a pregnancy, for those who are child-free not being forced to undergo an unwanted pregnancy is a huge relief.

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